Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Family Update


"God so loved the world that He gave His only son"!

Joy to the world!

We pray that the Light of Jesus will shine brighter in your lives and communities this season!

CLICK HERE to see our family update for this Christmas.


Steve and Alace
Joe, Megan, and Samuel

The Straw family

Monday, December 3, 2012

Eye Clinic Update!

From the director of the Bongolo Hospital eye clinic, Dr. Wendy Hofman:

"[Here] is the picture of an eye clinic patient named Ndoti-Donga.  He had been blind in both eyes for several years due to cataracts.  The day after surgery, he could see 20/40!  When they took his patch off, he looked at his daughter (also pictured), and said, 'Wow, you have grown up!'  He also gained spiritual sight during his time at Bongolo, accepting Christ for the first time!"

Monday, November 26, 2012

Beauty and the Beach

Tozer was a good boy!  He hasn't been to the beach in quite a while.

Here's the "Beauty" at the beach!

Beautiful, right?!?  ... it gets better!

I told you so!

Looking the opposite direction, you can take in a bit of the Libreville "boardwalk" and a full moon too!

"Total Eclipse of the Steve"

Cool apartment condos along the seaside highway "Bord de la Mer".

Look closely- those black dots in the sky are bats!  About 6pm, each day, you can find them filling the skies above Libreville.  Not sure exactly where they go... always the same direction...  Hmmm...

Awesome sunset shared with my best friend!  Great to come home from a flight and have the privilege to share another memory with Alace!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

No "I" in TEAM !!!

On the subject of team...

Alace and I are so blessed to serve on a larger team, here in Gabon, that all serves through a connection to the national C&MA ("Alliance Chretienne") of Gabon.  It includes the social works of the Bongolo Hospital, primary health clinics (SNI & OSPAC), a rehab & eye clinic (RBC), the Hope House (home for abandoned children), the Good Samaritan (care for widows & shut-ins), and more. In the past couple of days, we've seen this team really work so well together. 

"How?", you ask?

1.  22 NOVEMBER:  Bongolo Hospital Blesses OSPAC:  In the photos from the last post (First Flights), the father of the young child, is Pastor Jacob, who has worked with the OSPAC clinic for many years, primarily as the one leading the evangelistic aspects.  Bongolo bent over backwards to bless Pastor Jacob's son and get him a quick consult and care so he could get back to Libreville and avoid a difficult ground journey had it worked out otherwise.  Thank you Bongolo Team!!!

2.  22 NOVEMBER:  Bongolo Hospital Blesses the Libreville Team:  Upon arrival at the hospital's airport, Dr. Wendy H., our ophthalmologist, took time out of her day off to come to the airport to pick up Pastor Jacob, his son, and Papa Pierre.  Did I mention that she had her two young children with her?  I personally know how difficult it can be to load up a 3 month old and a 2 year old in a car and run errands.  Thank you Wendy!!!

3. 22 NOVEMBER:  Bongolo Blesses the Libreville Team:  The Bongolo team also assisted Papa Pierre, our Libreville based business agent assistant to also receive care quickly after his arrival on the airplane.  He, also, was able to get back to Libreville on the afternoon flight.

4.  23 NOVEMBER:  Bongolo Eye Clinic blesses RBC:  Dr. Elisee, who works at the Bongolo eye clinic, was in Libreville and spend some time on Friday working with the RBC eye clinic (based at an Alliance church in Libreville).  Dr. E was helping the director of the RBC eye clinic, Josephine, in some new training and techniques to enhance her work there- as well as seeing some patients.  Why was Dr. Elissee in Libreville?  He had been in DRC (former Zaire) visiting his family when the M23 rebels moved on the city of Goma.  This war activity was the reason for his early trip home.  He made use of his time in Libreville to pitch in at RBC- so cool!

5. 24 NOVEMBER:  OSPAC & Bongolo Surgeon-in-Training Blesses Bongolo Eye Clinic worker:  So, last night, at about 2:45am, my cell phone went off and it was Dr. Elisee asking for us to quickly come to his room- he is staying in the guest house next to our home.  We found him in severe pain from what turned out to be a kidney stone.  Thankfully, Dr. Dembele is also at our guest house.  We called him to the room and he made an evaluation (Let's just say that Dr. Elisee was in INTENSE pain).  Additionally, we called Dr. Renee and she confirmed Dr. D's diagnosis.  Then, Alace got on the phone to OSPAC (Mama Jeanine YNGUEMBA), who promptly jumped into action and made her way over to the guest house to get an IV going to hydrate Elisee as well as some meds to help manage his pain.

What a blessing to be part of a team that blesses one another giving evidence of the love of Christ!  Scripture makes it clear that the way that we, Jesus followers, treat one another is one of God's preferred methods to demonstrate HIS KINGDOM and LOVE for the world.

John 17:23, although it is a bit of a toungue twister, sums it up:

I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. 
Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

First Flights!

One thing that happens pretty often are passengers that have never, ever been in an airplane EVER!  Those are a bunch of fun.  I would estimate that about 30 people have gotten their first EVER ride in an airplane this year through this work.  Also happening often are passengers that have never, ever been in a SMALL, single-engine aircraft previously.  I estimate another 30 are in this category this year.  It's always fun to be part of this kind of thing.

Here is a picture of my most recent passenger in an airplane for the first time in his life!

This is Timothy- son of Pastor Jacob- on the right.  He's not feeling well and needed to get to Bongolo Hospital for an evaluation.

This is about 30 minutes into the flight back from Bongolo.  We were able to get Timothy down to the hospital by 10am, through a consultation, picked up his meds at the pharmacy, and then back to the airport for blasting off, back to Libreville (where they live) around 2:30pm.

Also on the flight was "Papa Pierre", seated behind me.  He also was able to be on the flight down to Bongolo, receive his care, and then be on the flight back in the afternoon!  A HUGE thanks to the Bongolo team (Dr. Alain, Dr. Renee, and more!) for making this all possible.  

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Air Evac- 14 November

This past Wednesday, while having some meetings with government ministries, a call came in requesting us to assist with a medical evacuation.  Around 4pm, I was able to launch to the town where a horrible car accident had happened between a van carrying a load of school children and an SUV.  One child had died at the scene.

On our way to the coastal town of Port Gentil.
The four children that I would transport had bad wounds, mainly to their heads.  They were in stable condition and had no need for oxygen or other in-flight care- they simply needed transported from the town (only reached by boat or airplane), 45 minutes back to the capital city where they could get to the doctors and machines that could care for them.  Although our aircraft is mainly working to support the work of the Bongolo Hospital, we still use the aircraft to bless people, no matter where their destination needs to be.  The doctor providing the care for them determined that Libreville was the best for these children, so that's where we headed.  Additionally, for the time being, our aircraft is not outfitted for in-flight care (ambulance), so we must ensure that each patient is stable and able to be transported safely with no chance that they will need special care during the flight.

Quite a crowd gathered.

Once it was determined how many children would be coming we changed the interior set up.  This required me to take out 4 chairs and stow them in the far back, held down by a cargo net.  A doctor and nurse were along for the ride, as well as the 4 children. 

It was about 45 minutes for the leg there and back, hugging the coast as we went.  You'll notice that no roads go to the destination.

As we arrived back to Libreville at dusk, the ambulances were waiting and some ground crew workers were waiting to assist.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

My Favorite Writer...

Yep- read one of her blogs, and you'll be a believer too.  She's been BEGGED to write more and more, however, if we're lucky, we get a couple of blog entries per month.  I'm speaking, of course, about my lovely and talented wife, Alace.

So, together, I'm confident, we can make a difference!  Read her blog and leave a comment!  With a one, loud voice, I think she'll hear and respond!  

Enjoy her lovely, descriptive writing that speaks from the heart!  CLICK HERE

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Presidential Mandate- ESL Class

Yep- that's right.  Alace has a presidential mandate to pursue teaching English as a 2nd Language!  With the President's recent announcement that Gabon would be pursuing bilingual status (French and English), His Excellence, President Ali Bongo Ondimba will certainly give his blessing on her efforts!

Here is Hannah and Alace posing with their new class.  The classroom has been provided by the National Education office of the C&MA.  Plenty of room and AIR CONDITIONING!!!

It really is as fun as it looks!  This particular day was a bit sad- Hannah's last day.  Pray for Alace as she is now a solo act!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Delayed in Chicago- "yes"... it was windy.

...windy... and rainy... and chilly... and UNEXPECTED!

Unexpected, in the sense that we were hoping for an hour layover from our connecting flight from Harrisburg, PA on United Express.  However, all we needed was a bit of a weather delay and there we were, running from jetway to jetway in Chicago O'Hare International airport, only to find that we missed our flight to Belgium (and, therefore, Cameroon) by about 20 minutes or so.  

What to do?

So, the next step was to the UNITED customer service desk for "plan B"- we're totally used to that, being residents of a central African country, however... our two weeks in the US had us spoiled... we were ready to keep momentum toward the return to Africa.  United told us we were free to hang out in Chicago for about 40 hours, but it would be on our dime- they'd prefer to send us back to Harrisburg that night and have us try the whole thing over again 2 days later.  Hmmm.... so we did some quick thinking and remembered a friend staying in Chicago at her sending church, on furlough from Mali. 

Using wi-fi, we were able to  contact our friend on Facebook and, within about 2 hours, we were sitting in her living room in a house next to her church!

On the way to Lisa's place, we needed to pick up some essentials at (where else?) Walmart.

The next morning, we jumped on a train to head into Chicago for some fun.

I found out that they don't call this building the "Sears Tower" anymore!

Megan and I were trying not to look too much like tourists.

Inside a LEGO store at a 7 story mall.

With nightfall came some sprinkles and rapidly falling temps!  Brrrrrrrr!

Hard to get a good photo when your hands are shaking in the cold!
While in Chicago...

So, Joe has his eye on Moody Bible Institute- they have a great Student Ministries program and Cross-Cultural program.  This was a contributing factor to us spending the time in Chicago and trekking into the city for the visit the first day and then borrowing a car the second day to go for a quick visit to Wheaton.

Standing in between Megan and Joe is a young lady, Janelle, who lived in the same dorm home that all 3 of our kids live in (UBAC house) and who now is a student at Moody!

We got a nice tour.  Great Campus!  The coffee shop is called "Sam's Place"!

After seeing Moody, Joe was pretty sure he had found his school of choice.  However, we had some additional time the morning of our flight, and we thought it would be prudent for Joe and I to buzz over that way.

Here's the proof!  A trip to the lovely and big campus of Wheaton College.

Directly next to the campus is the "Wade Center" that pays tribute to the works of C.S. Lewis and Tolkein, among others.

This is the actual wardrobe that inspired C.S. Lewis with the Chronicles of Narnia.
Thanks so much to Jen H. and Lisa N. for dropping everything to make our airport runs (pickup and dropoff!!!) as well as allowing us all to crash in your living room for 2 nights!!!  You guys rock!  Thank you Bloomingdale Community Church... even though you may not have realized we were there!

Nothing But Nets? ...hardly!

Gabonese C&MA Church Mosquito Net Distribution Planning

Last Wednesday, Pastor Jacob MOUELE and I loaded up for a flight to the largest population center in the North of Gabon- the town of Oyem.  There we met with the regional superintendent of  churches, Pastor Lucien (also a local church pastor) and two local church pastors- Pastor Faustin and Pastor Alex.

I know he looks like a 12 year old, but, really, my passenger is Pastor Jacob MOUELE.  Jacob works with OSPAC (Primary Health Work of the C&MA- Gabon) and is a pastor of a local church in Libreville.  He loves to tell people about Jesus and express God's love- it's infectious!!!

It was a very nice flight over the "Monts de Cristal" (Crystal Mountains) enroute, Northeast bound, from Libreville.  The ground clouds were "hugging" the mountains!

Landing at Oyem, we were warmly greeted by our friends.

(L to R):  Pastor Alex, me, Pastor Lucien, & Pastor Faustin.  We had a great time meeting over coffee and omelets while discussing how we can work together to bless people in need of mosquito nets.  Through the tool of medicine, we can touch people in their physical being as a bridge to share with them about the greater needs we have spiritually.  This group is very ready to facilitate the distribution of nets, so I'm sure I'll be getting a call from them soon saying that they are ready.  They also have a vision to open up a small neighborhood clinic that will be a branch of OSPAC!
The mosquito net distribution is only a part of the work.  As many already are well aware, you can distribute nets to all corners of Africa, but without education and compassion, many nets go unused or used wrongly (fishing, wedding veils, room partitions, etc.).  So, a thoughtful distribution of mosquito nets will take time to care for the individual and contextualizing the message to each villager.  The OSPAC team and local church pastors can't help but to use this approach in their work- it's in their DNA!

We covet your prayers and support in this work.  The nets come in packages of 50 and cost about $10 to $12 each through a local provider.  We're pulling strings to get as many nets as possible for as cheap as possible.  Drop me a line if this effort is of interest to you: